The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has announced it is to resume its investigation into the advertising technology, or adtech, sector after an eight-month suspension because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Its investigation into real-time bidding (RTB), the practice of buying and selling advertising inventory in instantaneous algorithmic auctions, began in 2019 in response to concerns over the implications of RTB, which is supported by the collection and trading of the personal data of internet users.
These behind-the-scenes auctions are responsible for many adverts that people may perceive “follow” them around the internet. The data collected to support the practice can include personal interests, location, income, relationship status, age, education level, gender, and sexual orientation.
“Enabling transparency and protecting vulnerable citizens are priorities for the ICO,” said ICO deputy commissioner Simon McDougall. “The complex system of RTB can use people’s sensitive personal data to serve adverts and requires people’s explicit consent, which is not happening right now.